There is an abundance of conflicting evidence swirling around regarding the keto diet, and the deeper you dig, the more confusing it can get.
First, let’s address the most popular benefit of the keto diet- weight loss! YES, getting your body into a metabolic state of ketosis is an effective way to lose weight quickly! But there’s also a lot of dangerous, scientifically unsupported, and skewed information out there...
Ketosis, Carbs, & Inflammation
One of the most widely advertised benefits of the ketogenic diet is its anti-inflammatory effects. Chronic inflammation has been identified as the common root of an endless list of maladies and diseases from arthritis to skin conditions to cancer to diabetes to obesity and on and on.
Inflammation is the body’s natural healing response to anything that disrupts its delicate equilibrium. By default, the inflammatory response is not a bad thing, but if not kept in check, it eventually wreaks havoc on the human body.
Left untreated, chronic inflammation can result in weight gain and the inability to lose weight, cellular damage to the body, the development of disease, and symptoms of premature aging.
The problem... in a nutshell? Many mainstream keto advocates are touting a lifestyle laden with animal fats and protein as a healthy anti-inflammatory diet.
Okay, so here's the deal: The metabolic state of ketosis requires starving the body of its regular fuel source glucose (a.k.a. carbs), and instead, burning fats for fuel. Once the body has burned through all of its stored carbs, it switches to utilizing ketone bodies, a by-product of the liver metabolizing fatty acids during such times of carbohydrate starvation.
There are 3 types of ketone bodies, and one of these types, BHB, seems to have an inhibitory effect on the body’s inflammatory response. Thus, there is mounting evidence that the keto diet could be a solution to chronic inflammation and its many consequences.
Does that mean that eating carbohydrates causes inflammation?
Um, not exactly.
Ketosis can only be achieved by restricting one’s daily carbohydrate intake (more info here). By default, this requires cutting out gluten, refined carbohydrates, and processed sugars - all of which are indeed highly inflammatory to the body.
So, yes, there’s evidence out there that a keto diet is less of a trigger for inflammation than eating processed carbs like white bread and donuts and ice cream.
However, it is a fallacy to claim that all carbohydrates are more detrimental to the body than ketone bodies. Natural sugars from fruits and vegetables DO NOT trigger inflammation or oxidative stress. Quite the contrary- fruit and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that promote weight loss and good health!
Is there a healthy way to benefit from the fat-burning benefits of a ketogenic diet?
Yes! The only way to embark on ANY dieting endeavor in a way that is healthy is if you are getting an adequate daily supply of the micronutrients which are exclusively found in plant-based foods.
The jury is still out on the consequences and/or benefits of the ketogenic diet, and there is a lack of scientific evidence documenting the long-term effects. What we do know is that over an extended period of time, any diet that is laden with acidic animal-based foods and deficient in plant-based nutrition is a surefire way to damage your health.
Keto is not about eating steak and cheese and bacon until you are skinny. It is about limiting your net carbohydrate values and getting the bulk of your daily caloric intake from healthy fats. This can totally be accomplished with a diet comprised of low-glycemic fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds!